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Chapter 3. Rhetorical Problem Solving > Writing for Someone Else's Signature

Writing for Someone Else's Signature

We have been speaking all along of Mary Anne Cox as a professional who solves problems with the help of writing. That is, she has been confronted with a problem and has either been assigned to report on a proposed solution in writing or has herself seen the need to report; in the latter case, her writing comes from self-direction. In either case, however, writing comes about from direct or central involvement in the problem-solving process; the problems, in other words, pertain directly and naturally to her own work. But what we have not pointed out yet is that this kind of writing constitutes only a part of the writing that professionals do. There is another substantial amount of time spent on writing for others, or ghostwriting, that is, writing documents that will show others as the authors.

It is true that ghostwriting is also assigned, but the difference is that it addresses other people's (always superiors') problems—technically not those that the actual author is involved in. In Mary Anne's case, for example, Tim is vitally interested in knowing how she assesses the problem at the capitol building and realizes the need to correspond with his contacts there, people in management positions superior to Janice Trippling's. But for a couple of possible reasons, lack of time and/or lack of knowledge or confidence in technical matters, he is unable to write the memo or letter to Anthony Capello, Director of Operations at the capitol building in Hartford, to explain what went wrong with ENCONTRO and what will be done to correct it. He, therefore, assigns the task to Mary Anne, saying, of course, that he will review and perhaps edit her work before he signs and sends it. That undertaking places Mary Anne in the position of having to analyze the problem, not only from her perspective and role, but also from Tim's—an uncomfortable and difficult situation sometimes, but one that cannot be avoided: it is a simple fact of professional life. Although writing for someone else involves all the same steps of analysis that we have been speaking about here, it also requires additional understanding of the relationship between the sender and the recipient of the document in light of the problem that the document addresses. Thus, Mary Anne has to draw on her knowledge of the nature of Tim's position and the demands it puts upon him, as well as her understanding of the relationship Tim has with Capello, something she may know about through observation but may also need to strengthen and confirm through conversations with Tim.


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